When I was 19, I travelled as an au pair with an Australian family on a three week trip they took to Scotland to visit their extended family. The two children in my care were aged 2 and 1, respectively. I saw very little of Scotland, except for the local Tesco, and slept very little, thanks to jetlag and the effect it had on the kids. I returned thinking for the first time in my life that being a parent may not be something I wanted to do.
Those feelings passed and I now have a four year old and a newborn, but my overseas trip gave me some insight as to why many single and coupled-up people without kids seem quite scared of having them. In the last few years in particular, Facebook has enabled us parents to share things about our children, both good and bad, but sometimes in such a way that we must make parenthood seem pretty unappealing to people without kids. However when you are updating your status after waking up with the baby at 5am about how “there isn’t enough coffee in the world to take the exhaustion away”, it’s hard to remember to try and filter yourself.
Any other statuses about diarrhoea, vomit or teething must have the same effect, even though there are plenty of other (better) moments we share too, when our children win awards or do adorable things. However, maybe these statuses just tend to make us seem self-absorbed and boring to our child-free friends, even though they are more positive?
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Getting regular, very honest updates from people with young kids whether they are seen in a Facebook news feed or shared during discussions at social gatherings with friends, must have the ability to take the romance out of the idea of starting a family with someone, especially when you know you have several tough years ahead of you while you travel through the baby and toddler years. But would going in blind really be any better? I don’t think so.
Pushing forward through the uncertainty is something that some couples may do, while others may just never be able to do it, preferring to be child-free. I can say is that based on my nearly five years of experience, is that parenting is fulfilling in millions of tiny ways that keep me going on the difficult days. So in the spirit of "keeping it positive" for all the people who are unsure or hesitating about having kids, here are my 3 favourite things about being a parent:
1) Having superpowers
As hard as it is to see your child sick or hurt, being the one who can comfort and calm them just by "kissing it better" or holding them, is huge validation that you are doing something right.
Weaning your child off things such as dummies, bottles, nappies, using a cot, etc, is sometimes harder for mum and dad than for the baby. Because it means more tantrums, broken sleep and mess during the time it takes to break the habit. But once you've passed each milestone the pride you have is what you remember most.
We throw a birthday party every year for my oldest daughter because it's such a wonderful annual reminder of the big picture, and all the things she has learned and how much she's grown in 12 months. It's really a celebration of everything we've achieved as a family.
What are your favourite things about being a parent?